The Kalighat area of South Kolkata, West Bengal, India, has a dual identity. This densely populated area is famous for its Kalighat Temple, where devotees throng, and is also a massive Red Light District. It is one of the oldest neighbourhood of South Kolkata, and here, around the banks of ‘Adi Ganga Canal’, an estimated 1000-1500 prostitutes live and work.
The basic hygiene of this red Light district is almost non-existent, living conditions are dank and squalid. Debgopal Mondal, a Community Correspondent of Video Volunteers (VV) made a video about their living conditions and was screening and engaging with the community about ways to solve these issues. Tumpa Adhikari, a local spirited social worker from there took inspiration from the Video and started working towards improving the area.
Tumpa pointed out several problems her community is facing and shortage of toilets is one of them. She pointed out that most of the houses are jointly occupied with 16-17 rooms and just one toilet for the entire household. That puts pressure on the household and they could not maintain the hygiene. The drainage system is also not maintained properly and in monsoon rains, the drains overflow and the sewage water seeps into their water pipes. People have no other option but to drink the infested water that leads to various waterborne diseases in the locality. Though Municipality sprays Antimalarial and Anti-Dengue chemicals, it is not regular and could not contain the spread of these diseases.
Tumpa also wanted the children to have a safe space for their studies there. As most of the students are 1st generation school goers, they need support and encouragement from the Government, keeping in mind their backgrounds. There are students who are in college now and they need counselling and scholarships to further their studies. Education is the only way out of this spiralling and systemic marginalisation, Tumpa internalised it and always keeps looking for ways to give their dignity back.
With the knowledge and help of VV, she approached their Municipality Councillor of the area about the issue of bathrooms and latrines. The empathetic Municipal Councillor of Ward No 83 of Kalighat Lal Bati area guided Tumpa about the relevant departments that will do their work. Councillor Majushri Majumdar was a guide for Tumpa and was instrumental in bringing about the change in her locality. Within six months, new bathrooms and toilets were made in their households, completely free, they did not have to spend any money.
It took Tumpa and her friends six months to bring about change. She profusely thanked their Ward Councillor Manjushri Majumdar, officials of their Municipality, the State Government and her Community, that stood by her, and especially VV, for the guidance and conviction that change is possible. Now Tumpa is going to take up another issue of the community and try her level best to solve it.
These successful stories of impact need more sharing to showcase to the world that community voice matters.
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